Jacobite Rising in Scotland Summary

  • Last updated on November 10, 2022

Supporters of the exiled Stuart Dynasty rose up in Scotland, in an attempt to overthrow the new Hanover Dynasty and place James Edward on the British throne. This Jacobite movement drew enough adherents to pose a serious threat to the Hanoverian monarchy, but it ended in failure because the Jacobites lacked good intelligence, adequate communications, and decisive military leadership.

Summary of Event

The Jacobite Rising of 1715 was a rebellion against the new king of Great Britain, George I, and the Hanover Dynasty. The rebels were called Jacobites to represent their continued loyalty to the exiled James II, who had been deposed in 1688 because of his adherence to Roman Catholicism. After James II’s death, his Roman Catholic son James Edward, styled James III and generally known as the “Old Pretender,” became the focus of the Jacobites’ hopes. In 1688, the throne had gone to James II’s daughter Mary II, a Protestant, and her husband, William III; it had then passed to Mary’s sister Anne. Queen Anne’s successor was George I, the elector of Hanover, who was a great-grandson of James I (r. 1603-1625) and therefore had some Stuart blood. However, George I was not only a German prince who spoke very little English, but also neither intelligent nor personally appealing. Moreover, he showed such partiality toward the Whig Party that he alienated the Tories. [kw]Jacobite Rising in Scotland (Sept. 6, 1715-Feb. 4, 1716) [kw]Scotland, Jacobite Rising in (Sept. 6, 1715-Feb. 4, 1716) [kw]Rising in Scotland, Jacobite (Sept. 6, 1715-Feb. 4, 1716) Jacobite Rebellion (1715-1716) Hanoverian succession Stuart Dynasty [g]Scotland;Sept. 6, 1715-Feb. 4, 1716: Jacobite Rising in Scotland[0490] [g]England;Sept. 6, 1715-Feb. 4, 1716: Jacobite Rising in Scotland[0490] [c]Wars, uprisings, and civil unrest;Sept. 6, 1715-Feb. 4, 1716: Jacobite Rising in Scotland[0490] [c]Government and politics;Sept. 6, 1715-Feb. 4, 1716: Jacobite Rising in Scotland[0490] James Edward Mar, sixth earl of Forster, Thomas Argyll, second duke of George I

Jacobite leaders, who supported the exiled Stuart Dynasty, were captured by authorities of the reigning Hanover Dynasty.

(Francis R. Niglutsch)

The Whigs took advantage of their new ascendancy in the British government by commencing impeachment proceedings against Queen Anne’s Tory leaders, causing at least two of them to flee to the Jacobite court in exile in France. Now the Jacobite cause was becoming more attractive not just to its original base group of Roman Catholics and Cavaliers but also to Tories ousted from power or snubbed by the king; to opponents of the Whigs’ penchant for military intervention in Europe; to High Church Anglicans, concerned that George might slight the Church of England in favor of the Nonconformists; and to those Scots who now saw the 1707 Act of Union as a grave error. Even in 1708, there had been enough opposition to the union of England and Scotland to prompt an attempt at placing young James on the Scottish throne. The attempt had failed after the invading French ships with James Edward aboard were driven off by the Royal Navy. Now, however, many more Scots believed that the union had merely given England even greater political and economic power over Scotland.

The primary force behind the rising of 1715, however, was not the claimant to the throne but a disappointed Scottish politician. After being snubbed publicly by King George I, the sixth earl of Mar decided to regain his former power by changing monarchs. In July, 1715, he began making plans for a two-front attack, one in the north and the other in the west near Newcastle. On September 6, 1715, he raised the Jacobite standard at Braemar. Soon, Mar had more than ten thousand men under his command.

Meanwhile, the Jacobites on the Continent, whom Mar had not contacted, were making preparations to land in the southwest of England. However, there were delays, which gave Hanoverian spies ample time to learn about the planned uprising. The English Jacobites were not told that the landing had been postponed, and when they gathered to welcome the invading troops, most of them were arrested. By the end of September, 1715, it was obvious that there would be no rebellion in the southwest.





Mar’s attempt to seize Fort William in the western Highlands was no more successful, and instead of continuing their efforts in the west, the clansmen from that area joined the main Jacobite army. The Northumbrian campaign was no more successful. On October 10, Thomas Forster captured Holy Island but failed to reinforce it, and it was recaptured the following day. A few days later, two French ships appeared off the coast, but when they saw that the island was held by the Hanoverians, they sailed away. Shortly afterward, the British sent more troops to Newcastle, ending any hope that Forster could capture the city, and he rejoined Mar in Scotland. Three weeks later, however, Forster again took his troops south of the border, where he had been told there were hundreds of men eager to join him. Again, the Jacobites’ intelligence was faulty. Government forces trapped the Jacobites in Preston, and over the objections of the Scots, who wanted to fight their way out, on November 14 Forster surrendered, ending the rising on the English side of the border.

In Scotland, however, the Jacobites seemed well on the way to success. Even without the “Old Pretender” present—for James Edward had not yet been able to reach England—men had flocked to join Mar’s forces. John Campbell, second duke of Argyll, who was commander in chief of the Hanoverian government’s forces in Scotland, had no more than four thousand men at his disposal. By now, he knew, the Jacobites outnumbered his forces by five to one. On September 14, a relatively small number of the Jacobites had taken Perth. If the larger force had immediately pressed their advantage, they could have driven south to Edinburgh and Glasgow and perhaps captured London itself. However, for a month Mar took no action. He seemed to be waiting, perhaps for James Edward to appear, perhaps for the French to arrive with reinforcements, perhaps simply for the will to commit his troops.

It was November 10 before Mar finally set forth, marching south toward Dunblane. Argyll was still outnumbered, though now only by two to one, but he had a grasp of military tactics that his opponent lacked, and he forestalled Mar by seizing the high ground of Sheriffmuir, near Dunblane. On November 13, the two forces met. Neither side won a victory, but Argyll lost the high ground during the fray and was left with only one thousand men. Again, however, Mar’s timidity won the day for the Hanoverians: During the night, Mar pulled out his troops and retreated to Perth. At that point, the rising was effectively over.

James Edward finally arrived in Scotland on December 22, but the projected coronation at Scone never took place. As Argyll, now reinforced by Dutch troops, advanced toward the north, the Jacobites retreated to Perth, heartlessly burning all the villages in their path, and then scattered to their homes. James Edward, Mar, and several other leaders sneaked off to Montrose, where they caught a ship for to the Continent. Thus on February 4, 1716, the “Old Pretender” ingloriously left the country he had believed himself worthy to rule. He never returned.


The rising of 1715 was the Jacobites’ best chance to seize the throne of Great Britain. Never again would there be such widespread discontent in both England and Scotland; never again would the Jacobites be able to draw so many to their cause. It was not a lack of enthusiasm, but poor leadership, that caused the rising to fail. It has been said that if the same number of men had been mustered for the rising of 1745, that rebellion would have succeeded, for James Edward’s son Charles Edward not only had the charm his father lacked, but he also had the capacity for courageous and decisive leadership that was so badly needed in 1715.

There were immediate consequences for the Jacobites who had participated in the rising of 1715. Some were executed, and many nobles lost their estates. Some prisoners died in jail; others chose transportation. A number escaped by bribing their captors and fled to the Continent, where they joined various foreign armies. With the Tories suspect, the Whigs could now argue that they were Britain’s only defense againt popery and against the hated French. However, Jacobitism was not dead. There were still some who met in secret to drink the health of the “king over the water,” and long after the final rising failed, the Jacobite cause would remain the stuff of romantic legend and of popular fiction.

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Douglas, Hugh. Jacobite Spy Wars: Moles, Rogues, and Treachery. Stroud, Gloucestershire, England: Sutton, 1999. Traces the activities of Jacobite and Hanoverian agents during the period. Chronology. Illustrated.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Gooch, Leo. The Desperate Faction? The Jacobites of Northeast England, 1688-1745. Hull, England: University of Hull Press, 1995. Argues that Northumbrian Jacobite leaders such as Colonel Forster have been blamed unjustly for the failure of the 1715 rising.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Lenman, Bruce. The Jacobite Risings in Britain, 1689-1746. London: Eyre Methuen, 1980. The author disputes the view of many scholars that the Jacobite risings were clashes between Celtic tradition and Anglo-Saxon materialism. Cites evidence to prove how diverse a group the Jacobites were.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Magnusson, Magnus. Scotland: The Story of a Nation. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2000. Contains a good description of the Battle of Sheriffmuir. Includes maps and illustrations.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Pittock, Murray. Jacobitism. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998. A discussion of the political context of the rising and the reasons for its failure.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Whyte, Ian, and Kathleen Whyte. On the Trail of the Jacobites. New York: Routledge, 1990. Explains the widespread discontent that led to the rising of 1715, then proceeds with a detailed account of the campaigns. Maps and illustrations.

Act of Union Unites England and Scotland

Defeat of the “Old Pretender”

Related Articles in <i>Great Lives from History: The Eighteenth Century</i>

Queen Anne; Second Duke of Argyll; George I. Jacobite Rebellion (1715-1716) Hanoverian succession Stuart Dynasty

Categories: History